Our Trailer Story
Let’s start from the beginning.
In 1948 John Ridley caught Wilfred Harrison after he finished a performance at Hinckley Working Men’s Club and shared with him his sketches for a mobile theatre. As an actor in a small company, playing one-nighters in eclectic halls across the country, Wilfred was captivated by the concept, and boldly took up the challenge to raise funds for it.
Taking a huge leap of faith in those dark days after the war, they set about creating the unique steel and aluminium structure, in which four huge trailers fold together to form a complete 225 seat proscenium theatre. John was joined by coach builder Dick Bull and electrical engineer Norman Robinson, and after four years of hard work (and many pots of blue paint) Century Theatre was finally ready to hit the road.
Century toured the country with a convoy of trailers, all towed by three enormous ex-service trucks (often driven by actors, no HGV licence being required then). Packed into the trailers was the performance space, a box office, dressing rooms, and accommodation for a company of sixteen – kitchen, dining room, bathrooms, and individual bedrooms, some 25 trailers in all.
Imagine deconstructing a theatre, an office, and a B&B and you’ll have some idea of what they managed to pack together!
In 1975, during one of Century Theatre’s many summers in Keswick, the braking systems on the main trailers couldn’t meet the new road traffic regulations, which meant that what had now been dubbed the ‘Blue Box’, ended up staying put, remaining in Keswick until 1996.